Decades in prison for 3 sentenced in North Dakota fentanyl trafficking probe

Jul 25, 2023, 3:14 PM | Updated: 3:26 pm

A federal judge has sentenced three more men charged in connection with an alleged international fentanyl trafficking operation.

U.S. Chief District Court Judge Peter Welte on Tuesday sentenced extradited from Panama to the U.S. in 2017. In 2019, he pleaded guilty to charges including drug conspiracy and money laundering.

On Monday, Welte sentenced Jason Joey Berry, 40 of Cornwall, Ontario, to 24 years in prison. Berry was extradited from Canada to the U.S. in 2021. Last year he pleaded guilty last year to a drug conspiracy charge.

Last week, Welte sentenced Xuan Cahn Nguyen, 43, of Point-Aux-Tremble, Quebec to 22 years in prison. He pleaded guilty in March to drug conspiracy and money laundering charges.

Authorities say Ceron and Berry used a cellphone from inside a Quebec prison to arrange shipments of fentanyl and fentanyl analogues from China to Canada and the U.S. as part of the alleged criminal enterprise. The trafficking led to fatal and nonfatal overdoses in North Dakota, Oregon, New Jersey and North Carolina, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in North Dakota.

“The Justice Department will continue to hold accountable those like Ceron, Berry, Nguyen, and members of their network who injected fentanyl and fentanyl analogues into American society with deadly results. Concerted efforts like Operation Denial demonstrate the Justice Department’s commitment to eliminating the influx of fentanyl into our communities at their points of origin,” Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite Jr. of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division said in a statement Tuesday.

The defendants are among more than 30 people charged in North Dakota and Oregon in connection with Operation Denial, the investigation begun in North Dakota in January 2015 following the overdose death of Bailey Henke, 18, of Grand Forks.

The investigation has resulted in two dozen sentencings and convictions and nearly $1 million in forfeitures of cash and property.

The U.S. State Department is offering a reward of up to $5 million for information leading to the arrest and/or conviction of Jian Zhang, a fugitive in the investigation. Authorities also are seeking four other Chinese fugitives.

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Decades in prison for 3 sentenced in North Dakota fentanyl trafficking probe